Product Review: Ames #12 Poly Scoop February 11, 2013

While I was picking up some supplies on Friday to prepare for the big storm, I walked past a pile of shovels and decided I might need another one to dig out from what They were calling "Nemo the Thunder Blizzard".  We already had a cheap push-shovel at home;  but this one was more of a scoop which I figured would be good for the deep stuff.  I liked the short wooden handle and lack of bells and whistles, so I threw the Ames #12 Poly Scoop in the cart along with the batteries and wooden matches.

shovel
just like heaven

Deep stuff indeed.  When we woke up Saturday to 20” of new snow, I figured I’d let the wind die down before getting to it.  I was looking forward to putting the new tool to work but I was wondering how it would handle the urban terrain.  Would the “poly scoop"-to-wooden-shaft connection handle the weight of heavy snow?  Could I scrape the sidewalk clean without a metal blade?

Fortunately the temperature had dropped during the night and the snow had become a bit fluffier than the earlier flakes that had fallen; but the powerful wind had whipped up some heavy drifts that were up to four feet deep in places.  I had my work cut out for me  as I set out to clear 100 feet of sidewalk out front and another 150 feet to the back door.  I also planned to dig out the car and the driveway even though our family had no plans to go anywhere beyond walking distance for the next few days.

From the first scoop with the Ames #12, I was in heaven.  The poly blade cut right through the snow and formed a perfectly sized load to carry and dump.  The width of it cleared a reasonable path, and the plastic hand grip provided an intuitive control.  Getting down and dirty, that poly blade scraped the sidewalks clean and shaped a tunnel, I’d be proud to charge a toll to go through.

But the true test remained to be seen.  The city plows finally arrived by Sunday night leaving us three feet of the heavy stuff to bust through at the street.  With rain in the forecast and the temperature rising, there wasn’t much time to clear it out before that pile of snow at the end of the driveway became more like a cinderblock wall.  Would the Ames #12 be able to finish the job, or would I have to pull out a steel spade to git’er done?  

Once again I was impressed.  That darned plastic blade was able to break through the iced-over blobs with surprising ease, and throwing the load up onto the 5 foot snow bank  was doable and almost fun.

And there is the word that kept looping through my brain as I moved scoop after scoop with the Ames #12: fun.  A good tool will do that.  While this can be said of the "right tool for the job", there is nothing worse than using the wrong tool or one that is poorly designed for the task at hand.  I certainly would not be writing this glowing review of the Ames #12 if I had just come in from clearing a Walmart parking lot.  A truck with a plow would be more fun than old #12 for that.  However, given the scale of the job and the urban terrain, I don’t have enough insurance to try to clear my world with anything other than a shovel and my back.  

Necessity being the Mother of Invention, pain and suffering is how we learn and how we as a society innovate; but unfortunately, as our paved areas get larger and the places we go farther apart from one another, the old, more labor-intensive ways of doing things fall by the wayside.   Too often we conclude that improvements such as automobiles and snowthrowers are meant to replace manual tools like bicycles and good shovels rather than simply augment their use.  Even if such things are not meant to be a permanent solution, the byproduct of such advances in technology often means that as the market for shovels decreases, the production of well-designed shovels disappears as well.

Fortunately, the bicycle industry has thrived all of these years because of a recreational market.  The idea of bicycles as toys has allowed the idea of bicycles as a tool for transportation to exist in more than just theory.  Those of us that have had the desire to use our bikes for everyday trips such as going to work or for groceries have always found a good bike and made it happen with fenders racks and other accessories.  We have found the fun and satisfaction in using these suitable tools to do our daily tasks, and have shed the expense, hassle and (most importantly) the obligation of owning a car and using it every time we leave the house.

Companies such as Surly and Brompton are out in front of this trend.  While they do make bikes for play, they also make tools for transportation.   All of Brompton’s line and Surly’s Long Haul Trucker and Big Dummy are just such machines.  Getting the job done with tools like these get to the heart of fun with a purpose.  So next time you’re in the bike store getting ready for the next natural disaster throw one of these in the cart and give it a try.  You might find that surviving is more fun than you think.